NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2023
STLTODAY.COM: Blues head coach Craig Berube believes Kevin Hayes will bring experienced help at the center-ice position to his team. The 31-year-old forward was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in July.
Berube noted that Hayes played well during his tenure with the New York Rangers, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. “He’s a good player with the puck, he makes plays,” said Berube. “Big, he’s got good size. When he was with the Rangers, he was killing penalties, he was a faceoff guy. He was really good at the dot. There’s a lot of upside there that he can really help us.”
Hayes averaged 20 goals and 30 assists per 82 games during his four seasons with the Flyers. Despite a 54-point performance last season (including a team-leading 36 assists), he was a healthy scratch at times under coach John Tortorella and spent some time as a left wing. His production dropped to seven points in his final 28 games with the Flyers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues are hoping that Hayes will improve in St. Louis and bolster their depth at center after trading away Ryan O’Reilly last season. He carries a $7.1 million cap hit through 2025-26 but the Flyers retained half of that. The Blues only gave up a 2024 sixth-round pick to get him. This could turn into a steal for the Blues if Hayes regains the form that earned him that lucrative contract.
DAILY FACEOFF: Anton Khudobin signed a contract with Sokol Krasnoyarsk in Russia’s second-tier VHL. The 37-year-old goaltender spent most of last season with the AHL’s Texas Stars. Traded to the Chicago Blackhawks before the March 3 trade deadline, he made his last NHL appearance on March 23, giving up six goals on 28 shots.
Before that, Khudobin had a well-earned reputation as a reliable backup goaltender with the Minnesota Wild, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks, and Dallas Stars. His most memorable performance occurred during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs as he backstopped the Stars to the Final.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin struggled following the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season. A nagging hip injury led to season-ending surgery in March 2022 requiring a six-month recovery period.
In 260 NHL games played, he had a regular-season record of 114 wins, 92 losses and 33 overtime losses with a 2.52 goals-against average, a .916 save percentage and 11 shutouts. He also had a record of 14-10-0 in 24 playoff starts with a 2.63 GAA, a .919 SP and one shutout.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Former Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask recently denied a long-standing rumor that he missed the last game of the 2015-16 season due to a hangover from drinking at a Boston pub the night before.
Rask was actually sidelined by a stomach virus and was replaced in that game by Jonas Gustavsson. The Bruins fell to the Ottawa Senators 6-1 and missed the playoffs.
In a recent interview with the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast, Rask said that the rumor was started by a former bartender at the pub. The former Vezina Trophy winner said he was there five days beforehand but not the night before that crucial game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask was among the NHL’s elite goaltenders during most of his tenure in Boston. He holds the Bruins’ record for career wins with 308, backstopping them to two Stanley Cup Finals and winning a Cup as Tim Thomas’ backup in 2011. Nevertheless, he never really got his just due from some Bruins fans during his 15-season NHL career.
LA HOCKEY INSIDER: The Los Angeles Kings enter this season with the second-lowest payroll invested in goaltending. They have three goalies with NHL experience in Cam Talbot, Pheonix Copley and David Rittich. It’s expected that Talbot and Copley will be their main tandem to start the seasons.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Goaltending is the Kings’ potential Achilles’ heel this season. Don’t be surprised if general manager Rob Blake goes shopping for an upgrade at some point if Talbot, Copley and Rittich struggle between the pipes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some on social media are pointing to this as justification for why Michkov dropped to seventh overall in this year’s draft. That’s as may be but it’s still very early in the 18-year-old winger’s career. He won’t be making his NHL debut for three more seasons so there’s plenty of time for him to develop and improve as a professional in the KHL.